Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash

Shadow Attorney-General

Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

Senator for Western Australia


7 MAY 2024


The Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has clearly demonstrated he has no idea of the finer details of how the Albanese Government’s Community Protection Board was established or is operating.

In a trainwreck interview on Radio National this morning Mr Dreyfus was asked several times if the board, which provides advice to Government on visa conditions of the released NZYQ detainee cohort, was “independent” of Government.

After twice failing to answer the question of the board’s independence Mr Dreyfus resorted to claiming, “the legislation speaks for itself, anyone can go and read the legislation and can see the way in which this community protection board operates.”

Shadow Attorney-General Senator Michaelia Cash said Mr Dreyfus was wrong.

“The Community Protection Board is not referred to in the legislation. Telling the Australian people that “the legislation speaks for itself” and that “anyone can go and read the legislation and can see the way in which this community protection board operates” is demonstrably wrong,’’ she said.

“It shows the Attorney has no idea how this body is working and is simply not across his brief on the issue, despite the significance. He should correct the record,’’ Senator Cash said.

“The Government has been all over the place on this issue. Firstly, Prime Minister Albanese tried to claim the board was making decisions independent of Government. Then Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neill conceded it was not independent,’’ Senator Cash said.

“And the Immigration Minister Andrew Giles won’t answer questions about the Albanese Government’s mishandling of the released detainee who allegedly bashed a cancer survivor during a violent home robbery in Perth,’’ Senator Cash said.

The Community Protection Board, announced by the Government in December 2023, is not established by legislation and has no statutory role.

It cannot make decisions in relation to visas under the Migration Act and is not conferred with any legal functions.

Until recently the Australian Government Directory, under the heading “Type of body” described it as “Non Statutory – Function w Separate Branding”.

The Community Protection Board is not independent of Government. Half of its members (Ms Sandra Jeffery, Mr Jake Sharman, Mr Michael Thomas and Ms Sarah Nicholson) are officials employed by the Australian Border Force or Home Affairs.

There is no legislative mechanism guaranteeing its independence. Board members do not have any security of tenure or remuneration. The Board can be abolished at any time.

Decisions made in relation to visas in the NZYQ cohort are the responsibility of the Minister or the Minister’s delegate, not the Community Protection Board.

The Government has admitted the Minister did pass the decision-making power in regard to the NZYQ cohort, including the former detainee who allegedly bashed a Perth grandmother, to a delegate.

But the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility is central to our system of government.

In general terms, Ministerial responsibility means that ministers are individually responsible to the Parliament for actions taken under their authority and in their portfolio.